A few of my friends are joining the Teach for America staff after graduation. Teach for America’s mission is to ensure that low-income students have access to teachers. They recruit college graduates and train them in an accelerated program before placing them in low-income schools.The program varies by region, but is usually about 5 weeks long. While many of my professors from UCLA’s Department of Education support Teach for America’s mission to improve education for low-income students, they disagree with Teach for America’s idea that anyone with a college degree can effectively teach and that becoming a teacher only requires a short training program.
The Teach for America debate makes me wonder: if you are an expert on a subject, are you qualified to teach it? Or does teaching require additional skills of its own? Almost all of my college professors have PhDs as well as published research and books in their field. Yet, not all of them are great teachers. In fact, some even left me so confused after lecture that I had to spend time learning the material on my own. Personally, I would have to agree with the latter that to teach a subject well, it takes more than understanding the material yourself, but special skills that require time and practice to develop. I have a hard time believing that can be taught in just 5 weeks.
I think it’s similar with developing educational games. Not just anyone who is an expert in math can create a game that successfully teaches math skills in an engaging way. As AnnMaria explains, teaching math is a lot harder than most people think. Lucky for us, AnnMaria has a PhD and MA in Educational Psychology and has taught math at every level from middle school through graduate courses. Meanwhile, Maria was previously a college instructor and has experience with blended learning with her own children. Diana also has a background in education. But, even still, we recognize the value and importance getting input from teachers actively working in the classroom – which is why we also work with full-time educators as consultants to help develop and vet our game content.
What do you think? Can anyone with a degree in a subject successfully teach it? Or is teaching an art of its own? Let us know what you think in the comments!
On the right is Jennifer, she’s an AMAZING teacher. On the left is Ronda, she’s in the WWE. If you’ll be in New Orleans this weekend for Wrestlemania, come to our meetup.
I’ve found myself having this same discussion on several occassions with different groups of people and my response it the same. Teaching isn’t about the degree in the frame. It’s about the frame of mind a person has about lifting others and being able to see potential. I have never been a Teach for America corps member, but I have worked for Teach for America South Dakota. I was hired by the executive director to coach, mentor, and support corps members that came to the reservation to teach. That is the key. Finding a mentor/coach to guide any first and second year teacher through the journey. My experiences teaching are K-12 and I’ve seen teachers (and administrators) come and go. In my professional opinion, it doesn’t matter if a teacher is hired with an Education major or a Business degree because the first year is going to be a learning experience. It is true that some Teach for America teachers aren’t cut out for teaching and they leave after their two year commitment ends.However, the same holds true for Education majors as well. Their major doesn’t guarantee excellent teaching.
I respect the work that Teach for America South Dakota is doing. I respect my fellow education majors. But, there is no way to know how good a teacher is going to be until they get into a classroom and start teaching. After that, it’s up to the leadership at a school to support them. So, my personal opinion is that no matter where the teacher came from it’s the responsibility of school leaders to carefully select and be willing to guide.
There are no guarantees.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback!